Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Yale Club of Korea, Alley Cats, and an Adventure...

Once again, I've fallen woefully behind on blogging... somehow it's hard to find the motivation after a long day of walking till I'm ready to collapse (as has tended to happen in recent days). Plus, I'm still figuring out the quirks of Blogger and how to work around them. As of now, however, I'm more permanently settled down in Seoul for the rest of the summer, so I hope to catch up on my posts over the next several days now that I'm not traveling so much. 

At any rate, a couple of things that happened today will be particuarly memorable for me, whether because they were awesome, hilarious, painful, or just kind of strange....

In the morning, we took a trip to Daejeon (about an hour away from Seoul by train). "We" includes my mom, me, and also a new acquaintance of ours: a highschooler who is a family friend of my homestay host family. He'll be moving to the U.S. in the fall for the rest of high school, so we're hoping to meet regularly as language partners until then - a win-win situation. Anyway, the reason I came up with this day trip was that Hyechon College in Daejeon has the world's biggest carillon, with 77 bells. For those who don't know, I'm a member of the Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs, so naturally I was pretty interested in seeing the instrument for myself. We managed to show up just in time to climb the tower as the 12:00 ring happened. I didn't get to play the carillon because they usually only play a single automated piece, but the carillon sounded great. I'll write more about it in a separate post for those who might be interested.

We didn't have much time in Daejeon, but we managed to squeeze in a visit to the National Museum of Science located in the Expo Park. It was pretty interesting, but I think it's mainly fitting as a great place to have an elementary school trip... It was kind of like all the Smithsonian museums in Washington DC crammed into one building, with corresponding less in-depth exhibitions and several odd juxtapositions (e.g. a mammoth skeleton next to a display on nano technology). 

Anyway, after that, we had to rush back to Seoul so that I could get to the Yale Club of Korea's annual summer dinner reunion. Even though my host mom went to the trouble of hand-drawing a (good) map of the area around the building I was headed for, I still managed to get lost and walked probably a good two miles in foot-torturing dress sandals before I managed to find the place (after asking someone on the street for directions). It was totally worth it though; it was so much great to meet up with my school friends at last, and also meet other students I didn't know well, plus a couple of awesome alumni. One of them is married the manager of BEAST and 4minute (!). After the reception, there was a superb performance by the Yale Alley Cats. It was not only side-splittingly hilarious (they're really gifted at physical comedy, not just singing), but also unexpectedly moving: it turned out that one of their former members, originally class of 2012 until he was drafted by the South Korean military, managed to get three days of leave and make a surprise appearance tonight. All around, it made for an unforgettable night. 

On the way home, even though I now knew where I was going, it was a long walk to the subway station and my feet were killing me, and it started to rain on top of it all. Thankfully I managed to make it underground without falling or getting soaked. When I finally got to my home subway station 11 stops later, though, I nearly got lost finding the exit (coming from a line I haven't used much yet). Then, just when I finally figured out where I was, someone tapped me on my shoulder from behind.

Thinking what a coincidence it would be if I had just run into someone I knew, I turned around... only to see a Korean ahjusshi I had never seen before in my life. He asked in English if I could speak Korean, and I answered yes... a little... and he started going on in Korean about how he wants someone to speak English with, where was I from, what am I doing in Korea, etc. Long story short, he didn't seem like a total creeper (I'm hoping he's just really friendly), so I let him walk and talk with me most of the way home (he apparently lives in a nearby complex). We traded basic contact info, so I might meet him again sometime if he still seems okay and wants to practice English or something.

What I really got out of this strange experience for now, though, was the feeling that I hit a really nice milestone tonight: I understood at least 95% of his side of the 15 minute conversation. I knew my listening comprehension has improved a LOT in last few weeks, but that honestly surprised me. Of course, the quality of my answers in Korean undoubtedly left something to be desired (and the conversation topics were fairly mundane)... but I'll be working on that ^_^. Can't wait for Ewha to start!

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